Rock climbing involves a lot of skills, and a lot of muscles. To be the best climber you can be, you need to workout. But that workout needs to be specific to rock climbing. This rock climbing workout plan lets you build muscle where you need it. After a few weeks of sticking to the plan, you can watch your performance improve.
What Muscles Matter?
Many people think that rock climbing is all about finger strength. While finger strength is an important aspect of climbing, there are other key areas that matter. It’s important that you focus on all of the muscles you use in climbing. Any weak muscles are a weak link, and may lead to failure.
Your core is one area of possible weakness that is often overlooked. One of the most important climbing skills is good balance, and that depends on a strong core. Your core is what lets you reach for far holds without falling. It’s what holds you tight to the rocks as you adjust your foot hold, and what lets you extend out as you plan your next move.
For a strong core, you need to do plenty of ab exercises. There are tons of ab exercises to choose from. But it’s critical to choose the right ones. You have different abdominal muscles, and each one matters. Areas of importance include your obliques, your lower abs, and your upper abs. Different exercises work the different regions of your abs. That’s why crunches alone aren’t enough to give you the strength you need for climbing. You need the right combination of ab exercises for a core strong enough to give you peak performance.
You also need enough upper body strength to be a great climber. Although that might sound easy to obtain, it’s not. Upper body strength includes many different muscles. For climbing, you need strong biceps, shoulders, and triceps.
And then, there’s flexibility. But most people overlook this portion of their training. They think brute force is more important. However, that’s not the case. Flexibility is just as important as anything else. Without it, you won’t be able to reach your next hold. Instead of having many options, you box yourself into a small area.
Gaining flexibility isn’t as easy as climbing every day. While climbing can improve your flexibility slightly, you need to actively work on it. This means daily stretching. Even the most inflexible person can stretch enough to make improvements. It’s not something you have to be born with; you can work towards it. Before every workout, you should spend several minutes stretching. In addition to making you a better climber, it may make you less prone to injury.
Finally, cardio matters. There’s no doubt that strength is important. But it’s also important to keep your cardio up. Without it, you’ll be too tired to climb far. Good cardio can keep your heart from racing too fast as you climb. And it can keep your muscles from fatiguing. Be sure to incorporate cardio into your workouts every week. You can even monitor your heart rate as you climb to keep track of your progress. The lower your heart rate, the stronger your heart. They make many wireless heart monitors that track your vitals as you climb, so pick one and test it out.
It’s important to note that you should warm-up before you start this workout. You can do any activity that gets your blood pumping slowly. Dynamic stretching is a great warm-up that stretches your muscles while increasing your heart rate. Make sure the activity is about fifteen minutes long. Anything shorter and you risk injury. Here’s a sample dynamic warm-up that can improve your flexibility and get you ready for any type of training.
Dynamic Stretching Warm-Up:
Perform each of the following exercises for one minute.
Walking lunges with a twist- Do one walking lunge forward with your right leg. Twist your upper body towards the right, then return to forward facing. Step forward and lunge with the left, then twist your upper body to the left. Continue this until time runs out.
Frankenstein Walk- As you walk forward, kick your right leg straight in front of you. Keep your hands straight forward, so your arms are parallel with the ground. When it hits the ground, step forward and kick your left leg straight in front of you. Try to extend your leg as high as you can, and don’t bend your knee too much. The straighter it stays, the better your flexibility will get. Continue this until the time’s up.
Knee Hugs- Lift your right knee up to your chest and hug it close to you. Hold it for a count of three and put your leg down. Do the same with your left knee, and repeat until time runs out.
T Push-Ups- Start on the ground in push-up position. Do one push-up, but reach your left arm towards the sky when you come up. Twist your body slightly up so that your arms look like a “T.” Then, go back down into a push-up. Come up and reach your right arm to the sky. Repeat for one minute.
Jump Squats- Go down into a squat position. Using your arms for momentum, explode up off the ground. Land with your knees slightly bent, and repeat. You should be exploding up as soon as your feet hit the ground. Repeat for one minute.
Crab Walks- You might recognize this exercise from your fifth-grade gym class. Go down on the ground and bend your knees. Sit up, using your hands and your feet to keep your butt from touching the floor. Like a crab, crawl forward for ten steps. Then crawl backward for ten steps. Repeat until time is up.
Jumping Jacks- There’s nothing like a good old, traditional jumping jack. Keeping proper form, do jumping jacks as fast as you can for the allotted time.
If this dynamic warm-up feels too easy, you can always add new exercises to it. It needs to be difficult enough that your heart rate rises, but not so hard that you’re too tired to work out. Pace yourself, and prepare yourself for an intense rock climbing workout plan.
This workout should only be done two or three times a week. You should never do them consecutively. Instead, give yourself a day of cardio or climbing in between this strength workout. Be sure to give yourself at least one rest day every week. Failing to do so can cause injury or poor performance – neither of which is good for serious climbers.
Perform this workout in circuits. After each circuit, you can take one minute of active rest. During that time, you should keep moving. You can jog in place, do squats, do sit-ups, or any other motion. Whatever you do, don’t sit still.
Pull-Ups- Do as many pull-ups as you can do with your palms facing inward. Focus on form. Don’t use your legs to jump up to the bar. Instead, start by holding the bar with your feet off the floor. This forces you to pull yourself up using only your arm muscles. If this is too challenging, you can have a partner hold your legs a give you a little boost.
Inward Pull-Ups- Do as many pull-ups as you can with your palms facing outward. Follow the tips above if this is too difficult. In time, you’ll be able to handle it.
Push-Ups- Do as many push-ups as you can until you fail. Try to do at least 50. If you can’t, drop to your knees and do modified push-ups. In either case, practice the proper form. Look a few feet in front of you and keep your back straight. Drop down so that you’re only a few inches from the ground.
Tricep Dips- Find a Tricep bar and put your triceps to work. Do as many dips as you can. If you don’t have a bar to work with, you can use a bench or even a chair. Place your hands on the bench and your heels firmly on the ground a few feet in front of you. Using your triceps, dip down several inches and come back up.
Circuit 2: Do everything in this circuit for one minute.
Plank- Start on the ground in a plank position. Hold the plank as long as you can. If one minute is too hard for you, just do your best. Time how long you held it and try to improve on that number each time. Be sure to keep your back parallel to the ground and your butt from going to high. You should only use your core to stay up.
Crunches- This is the traditional crunch that you know and love. Avoid clasping your hands behind your head and look straight up at the ceiling. Your shoulders should be off the ground a few inches each time you come up.
Flutter Kicks- Lay on the ground with your belly facing up. Lift your head slightly off the ground and bring your feet a few inches off the ground. Move your left leg a few inches higher, then lower it. Do the same with your right leg. Your feet should never touch the ground and you should flutter them as quickly as possible. Don’t give in, and push through it until the time is up. You can keep your hands under your lower back to provide a little support.
Ankle Taps- Get on the ground in a sit-up position. Lift your head and shoulders off the ground a few inches. Put your arms at each side and keep them straight. Using your obliques, twist yourself so your left hand touches your left ankle. Then, do the same with your right hand to your right ankle. If you do this one right, you’ll feel it in your obliques and nowhere else.
Mountain Climbers- You can’t have a rock climbing workout plan without mountain climbers. Get on the ground in a push-up position. Your arms should be straight, and not bent at the elbow. Bring your right knee in towards your elbow, then back. Do the same with your left knee. Your movements should be quick, as if you were running.
This circuit keeps your hands gripping weights, which builds your grip strength. Repeat each exercise in the circuit for the suggested amount of reps. You need to choose an appropriate weight for the dumbbell. It should be heavy enough to be a challenge, but not so heavy that you can’t handle it.
Dumbbell Squat- Hold one dumbbell in each hand and hold them at your side. Go down into a squat position, then come back up. Repeat for 12 reps.
Bicep curls to press
Standing straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, do a bicep curl with each arm at the same time. As the weights come up, extend them up into a shoulder press. Slowly drop them back down to the starting position and repeat for eight to 12 reps.
Straight Leg Dead Lifts- Bend over at the waist and hold the weights a few inches off the ground. With only a slight bend in your knee, keep your arms straight and pull up into an upright position. Your elbows should remain unbent. Repeat for eight to 12 reps.
Twists- Hold one dumbbell in each hand at chest height. Your elbows should be bent and close to your body, near your hips. Keeping the dumbbells only a few inches apart, twist to your right. You should keep your legs still, only slightly pivoting your feet to avoid injury. Then, twist to your left. Repeat for a count of 20.
Once you’ve completed the circuits, your strength workout is done. But it’s important to stretch afterwards. It’s also not a good idea to climb after a strength workout. Your body needs time to rebuild its muscles. Let it heal, and climb another day. It’s worth the wait. With this new rock climbing workout plan, you might find yourself breaking records.